I headed out to Victory Brewing Company this past Sunday for their 10th Annual Chili Cook Off. Five of us were selected to judge twenty-one different chili entries, and the entrants from Victory’s staff ran the gamut – everyone from the brewers to the serving staff had a chance to submit a recipe and compete against one another for some quick cash and the coveted People’s Pepper. I couldn’t have been more excited to fill my Sunday afternoon with some fresh Victory brews and quite possibly the largest spread of chili I have ever laid my eyes on.

No sooner than the doors had opened did the people come flooding in to try the wide array of chili. I have been to Victory more times than I can count on my fingers and toes and I have never seen it this busy.

As judges we were sequestered away in the back of the restaurant, where all twenty one chili’s were blind-tested and evaluated for appearance, taste, aroma, texture, and originality.

Joining me on the judge’s panel, we had Kevin McLoughlin from NFL films, Brian Kolesar from The Brew Lounge, Owen McCuen from Ferment Nation, and Amy Strauss of Downingtown Dish.

Friend of Victory Brewing Company and nine year chili judging veteran, Rich Ruch also joined us on the judging panel and has had more chili than you could possibly imagine.

As we got into our tasting, Chef Eric MacPherson came in to tell us a little bit about the entries and what we could expect in some of these batches of chili.

You can’t have chili without a palet cleanser.

Souffle cup after souffle cup, I made way through all the chili’s with a cleared sinus and no heartburn.

After the tasting portion we had to set upon the controlled chaos of the restaurant and judge the entrants’ presentation.

Before I made my rounds I had to pick up one of these awesome Mr. Yuk Cancer Sucks pins. Props to Berry Woodrow for making these, they were well received – almost everyone in the place had one on their chest.

As I started to make my rounds I came to notice all the clever gimmicks being utilized by the entrants.

Some displays were bland while others went all out. I was a big fan of the lab set up by Revenge Of The Nerds chili. PS – they are actual scientists.

Cowbell? I would love some.

The Philly Chili team had this sweet cutout of Benjamin Franklin.

Seeing as this competition is being held at the brewery, there was no shortage of Victory beer in any of the recipes (some for better and some for worse).

After I made my rounds for the presentation it was time for another drink, and the beer everyone was buzzing about for the day was ECLAT Cocoa Lager – a specialty release lager brewed with cocoa created to celebrate their sixteenth birthday.

The crowd also had a say in what chili they thought should be on top.

With all the judging complete and all the chili consumed, it was time to announce some winners.

The People’s Pepper winners: Andrew McGarry, Alex Chryst and Ali Leaf with John Doe’s Chili.

Meg Davis, Amanda Hoffman, and Dillon Allen of Philly Chili found themselves in third.

While the simple and solo effort of Chuck Golder with It’s Just Chili too second place.

And your winner is, Ian Jenkins & Megan Maska with their Beast Breath Chili. They walked away with $100 and bragging rights until next year’s challenge.

The book closes on another Victory Chili Cook Off, leaving some with the sweet taste of victory and some with the bitter taste of defeat. A big thanks to Victory for inviting me out to judge the competition and putting on this awesome event for everyone to enjoy. I know I had a great time and can’t wait to do it all again next year.

Victory Brewing Company